What Does "Freedom of Speech" Mean in the Context of Community?
By oracletechnet on Jan 20, 2009
There is a fascinating meta-thread taking shape at forums.oracle.com, especially for those interested in the care and feeding of an interactive community.
It began with me issuing a strong personal warning about "personal attacks" to several Database forum regulars, who do not, to put it mildly, "get along". This warning was reproduced verbatim in a public announcement.
You agree not to upload, email, post, publish, distribute or otherwise transmit through a Forum any Content that: (a) is false or misleading; (b) is defamatory; (c) is harassing or invades another's privacy, or promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual; (d) is obscene; (e) infringes another's rights, including but not limited to intellectual property rights; (f) constitutes unsolicited bulk e-mail, "junk mail," "spam" or chain letters; or (g) violates any applicable laws or regulations.
...it does fall within the gray area in which all forum moderators are sentenced to wander, for all eternity: the area bounded by the limits of common-sense civil behavior. It is the mod's job, among other things, to set the limits of what is and what is not "OK". This responsibility is backed by an enforcement power:
Oracle reserves the right to review Forum Content and remove any Content at its sole discretion.
Interestingly, some members are not comfortable with this policy or the principle of this enforcement power. They dispute the power of a particular individual to determine what is/is not "civil" behavior. Rather, in their opinion, the boundaries in question should be set by the members themselves, and enforced by them as well. (E.g., let people use the Report Abuse button to their heart's content and leave it at that.)
So, the question is out there: in an organic, self-sustaining community, what is the role, if any, of the "omniscient" moderator? A feast for thought.